30 Teams in 30 Days: Golden State Warriors enter 2018-19 season with eyes on three-peat
Golden State is reloaded and ready to defend its back-to-back titles
That’s a question many fans ask as the flurry of trades, free agent news and player movement seems to never stop during the summer. Since the Golden State Warriors claimed their third title in four years back on June 8, NBA teams have undergone a massive number of changes as they prepare for the season ahead.
With the opening of training camps just around the corner, NBA.com’s Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise as it sits today — from the team with the worst regular-season record in 2017-18 to the team with the best regular-season record — as we look at 30 teams in 30 days.
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Today’s Team: Golden State Warriors
Who’s new: DeMarcus Cousins (free agency); Jonas Jerebko (free agency); Jacob Evans (Draft)
Who’s gone: JaVale McGee; Zaza Pachulia; Nick Young; David West
The lowdown: The dominance of the Warriors continued with their third championship in four years and fourth straight trip to The Finals, although to nitpick, the journey wasn’t without a few sharp turns. Mostly, the Warriors dodged a bullet when Chris Paul’s hamstring pull prevented him from finishing the West finals, where the Rockets were in control at the time. Also, the Warriors at times staggered through the regular season, often drawing the anger of coach Steve Kerr, although they won 58 games anyway, proof of their sheer talent. In the end, the Warriors and their overload of stars were too much for anyone to overcome, especially LeBron James in The Finals. Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, two elite players in their prime, remained at the top of their game, with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson providing the necessary support. Andre Iguodala showed declining skills and Young was a disappointment as the Warriors’ bench delivered mixed results. Still, the NBA season ended exactly how many anticipated, with the Warriors nourishing a basketball dynasty that’s already one of the best ever.
As if four All-Stars and at least two future Hall of Famers weren’t enough, the Warriors added Cousins to the stew this summer and sent a shiver around the league once more. Hilarious, really: While the rest of the NBA title contenders scrambled to make changes this summer in an attempt to overthrow Golden State, the champs distanced themselves from the pack with a checkmate move.
Obviously, getting a four-time All-Star center was dictated by unusual circumstances. Any visions of getting big money in free agency this summer vaporized after Cousins’ Achilles injury last spring; therefore, if forced to sign a short-term deal, he figured, why not do that with the defending champs? Makes sense.
This is the second time in recent history that a serious injury worked in Golden State’s favor. Six years ago Curry dealt with recurring ankle sprains, so he signed a team-friendly contract that eventually allowed the Warriors to afford Iguodala and add other pieces to jump-start the dynasty. By the time that contract ended, and two Kia MVPs later, Curry was the fourth highest-paid on his own team.
Cousins’ own team, the Pelicans, flourished without him late last season and into the playoffs and therefore were understandably hesitant to give him a max contract. Big men dealing with that injury almost never return to form, and anyway, rehab projections had Cousins sitting out nearly all of 2018-19. It didn’t make fiscal sense for the Pelicans or anyone else to pay Cousins big money for a “lost” year with another two or three years remaining on the deal without knowing anything about his recovery.
Before the injury, Cousins had few peers among centers who could match his pure skills, especially offensively. With a gentle touch around the rim and 3-point range, Cousins was a tough assignment, and he was also solid on the glass and defensively at times.
The only downside was his on-court immaturity; he racked up technicals and suspensions through much of his career although he softened noticeably during his time in New Orleans. Much of his frustrations could be blamed on being in Sacramento and never making the playoffs.
That said, Cousins did beef with Durant last season and even hunted down KD after a game, which means Cousins still keeps a mean streak. This should make an interesting time in Golden State with Green, who’s cut from the same cloth.
The beauty of signing Cousins is the Warriors don’t need him for the regular season. They’re built to win 55-65 games without him. He can rehab without urgency and stay fresh until the playoffs. Basically, he’s a bonus, and if all goes well, will cause opponents to frantically redo their Warriors scouting reports in April.
In the past, the Warriors kept a supply of centers who could be generously classified as ornaments. Although McGee played well in The Finals against the Cavs, and Andrew Bogut did contribute to a degree to the Warriors’ first title (and his Finals injury two years ago perhaps cost the Warriors another title), those centers were on the bench when it counted.
Cousins represents something bold and different. Assuming good health, he can stretch the floor or become the Warriors’ first legit low-post threat in the Kerr era. That’s why the rest of the league suffered from bad body language when Cousins signed.
With their first-round pick, the Warriors took Evans, who helped Cincinnati to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and brings length and size (6-foot-6) at guard. He’ll immediately become the next project for the Warriors’ player development program, following Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Patrick McCaw (who remains unsigned).
Jerebko brings additional 3-point shooting and athleticism to the front line; he was productive in previous stops in Boston and Utah.
Cousins’ stay with the Warriors could be brief if he plays well, simply because the Warriors can’t pay everyone. Still, another championship for the Warriors, and a first one for Cousins, would benefit everyone involved.
Coming Next: Toronto Raptors
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